Princeton Tec Fred
Where to Buy
A light, well-made headlamp with bright, focused beams,…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $23.60 on Amazon
A light, well-made headlamp with bright, focused beams, and a red light mode. An intelligent switching pattern becomes intuitive with use. Made in the USA.
- Has a red light mode
- Intelligent switching
- Bright, focused light
- Made in the USA
- Headband too small for some
- Battery compartment hard to open
I've had a few headlamps before this one. In my first section of the Appalachian Trail, I took my Black Diamond Cosmo LED headlamp. It had two side LEDs for a flood effect, and one central 0.5-watt LED with a conical reflector to focus the beam. It was a fine unit except for one thing. It didn't have a red light mode.
Now, many like red light to protect night vision. But if one's hiking the AT, and turns on a white light inside a crowded shelter after dark, they are often called names, have their sanity questioned, and are generally ostracized from the community of hikers.
As soon as I got home from that first section, I started looking for a new headlamp.
The Fred was based in Princeton Tec's successful Fuel series. at 78 grams with batteries, the Fred is pretty light. (My old BD was 86g, so that little bit of weight reduction was a bonus.) It has a small profile, and rotates up and down on the headband. It comes in a variety of colors including a couple of cammy patterns, and desert sand.
The Fred has two light sources from which to choose, one red "Ultrabright" LED, and 3 white Ultrabright LEDs. Each light source has two modes (High and Low). Unlike some other popular lights, when you turn on the Fred, it starts in the low power red mode. Others start in a retina-burning white mode, which is a good way to end up hiking alone.
From the off position, a quick double tap takes you to bright mode. To get to white light mode, you hold the button down for a few seconds. You don't have to cycle through the white lights to turn it off, like some other lights require.
It's a bright light. Rated at 45 lumens, the high white mode will reach out well over 100' down the trail, the two red modes are sufficient for breaking camp for a pre-dawn start, or making a midnight call of nature.
It runs on three alkaline (included), NiCad or NiMH batteries. Battery life is rated by the manufacturer at 180hrs in low red, 74hrs in high white. I can't really quantify my experience with battery life, but in two sections totaling 1,212 miles, I changed the batteries once towards the end. I'm not much into night hiking, and I generally go to sleep when it gets dark, so I never really let it burn very long.
At least one reviewer, with a "fairly big" head complained about the headband being too short for him, and putting uncomfortable pressure on his head. I generally wear a size 7 1/2 hat, I have the headband adjusted to its maximum size, and it fits me fine.
It meets IPX4 in the International Electrotechnical Commission standards, meaning it's designed for water resistance to splashing and quick dunkings. Should be fine in a light rain. I never had a problem with water intrusion, but I never used it in the rain except for quick midnight calls of nature.
That level of waterproofness apparently comes with some pain. Opening the battery compartment is tough. The instructions call the tab on the headband adjustor, a "tool" for opening the compartment
Princeton Tec warrants the Fred against manufacturing defects for five years.
This is a great light for campers and backpackers. Well, at least for those with hat sizes smaller than 7 3/4 ...
This headlamp does everything I need it to! This is the…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $24
This headlamp does everything I need it to!
- 4 levels of brightness: 2 white, 2 red
- Red LED
- Won't take lithium cells.
- None that I can find. Still waiting for first set of batteries to die.
This is the 4th headlamp I've owned, and is hands down, the brightest, by far. I was torn between the BD Spot and the PT Fuel, but felt I didn't need 4 levels of brightness from a white LED. I was also able to buy it locally to try out, unlike the Spot, which would have been ordered. My old Rayovac (which I've had to fix numerous times) is now unreliable, so I felt a replacement was necessary.
I bought the Fred with backpacking in mind, but use a headlamp, on average, 4-5 nights a week, for up to an hour each night to split and haul wood to the house during the winter. In addition to that, we're still remodelling our house, so it has to pull triple duty if I'm in the attic or basement, fixing something.
As I said, the light has done everything I've asked of it over the past 4 months, and hasn't let me down. It has a rubber coated switch on the housing that, when depressed, immediately turns on low-red LED mode. If it is depressed again, within a second or so, it will go into bright-red-LED mode, which I've used on occasion to load wood.
I found both red modes usefull while backpacking on the AT a few weekends ago. I was with 5 other friends and was able to see to prep my bivy without ruining my night vision (it was a super clear, cold, starry night). Holding the switch down for approximately 2 seconds turns on the low-white LED. This has been all I've needed for loading and splitting wood.
On white-low, I can easily see 20-30 yards - more than enough. Depressing the switch a second time once in low-white mode turns on high-white mode. I decided to try this mode while on the AT. I took a short hike away from our shelter area, and was surprised at how far the light could reach. I could easily see each white blaze on the trail. Will I use it for a night hike on the AT? Unlikely - but it's nice to know I could if I had to.
The light is based on the PT Fuel, and uses three AAA batteries. On my scale, it weighs 2.8 ounces with batteries, a full 2 onces less than my old Rayovac.
The only minus I could find is that the light will not accept lithium batteries. I emailed Princeton Tec and was told to use conventional batteries only. Regarding some of the problems others have had with the Fuel (ie. turning on in the pack and broken battery covers) I haven't had any problems.
It didn't turn on in my pack while hiking 12+ miles, and, I've only ever placed the original batteries in it, which currently have an estimated 24 hours on them, with no dimming. The cold had no affect on it either. I awoke at about 0400 needing to relieve myself and noticed my water bottle was frozen, the Fred (sitting beside it) turned on no problem, again, with no dimming.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this light for an all-around, reliable headlamp.
Did I mention it was made in the USA?